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Dozens of education, childcare organizations seek injunction against Idaho's attorney general

The complaint is in response to what the groups call "over-reaching" Civil Investigative Demands.

BOISE, Idaho — A lawsuit seeking injunctions against the Idaho Office of the Attorney General's Civil Investigative Demands (CIDs) over grant funding for education programs from 2021 and 2022 was filed on Wednesday, March 15 .

The complaint against Attorney General Raúl Labrador was filed on behalf of 35 different organizations. They're asking for court orders to stop what they said are "over-reaching and sweeping" investigative demands. 

Labrador's office has demanded records from 80 Idaho organizations that received funding through the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Community Partner Grant Program. Some of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit include: Marsing School District, Nampa School District, Children's Home Society, United Way (Treasure Valley, North Idaho and Southeastern Idaho), the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children, Middleton Counseling Center, among dozens of others.

"We applied for a grant through the state to support our students. We received the grant and were told we had complied with all the requirements. We've never experienced anything like this. The Attorney General's actions have caused a huge distraction for our staff and an undue burden for people who are trying to deliver education to the students of Marsing," said Norm Stewart, Superintendent of Marsing Schools.

Labrador's office began serving the CIDs earlier this month in regard to questions over how the agencies had distributed funds.

"Our [civil investigative demands] were issued to obtain facts about what happened and to determine whether state law was followed," The AG's office wrote KTVB in an email last week. "Our goal here is to provide full transparency to the people of Idaho.”

In a press release from the organizations that filed the lawsuit, it said the Community Partner Grant Program was created through the federal American Rescue Plan Act in order to help with learning loss during the pandemic. 

"We were served with the civil investigation demand at the Lincoln County Youth Center. My initial reaction was shock. The demands were really over the top. They are literally asking for the personal information of everyone who works or volunteers at the center, including addresses. I would have to hire someone specifically to produce the amount of records they are looking for. We are busy taking care of kids - we don't have legal staff to produce this mountain of paperwork," Lincoln County Commissioner Rebecca Wood said.

Several Idaho school districts and non-profits received the grants to help pay for programs, staffing and to support students. In the release it also states that CIDs aren't used very often, typically reserved for antitrust or false-claims cases, and the attorney general can issue CIDs without prior oversight of the court. Additionally, the complaint states that the CIDs Labrador's office issued were not approved by a judge and were issued without probable cause.

"The action taken by the Idaho Office of the Attorney General is an over-reach of government power that distracts from serving Idaho families and communities," said Greg Chaney, a former Idaho lawmaker and the attorney who filed the motion. "Civil Investigative Demands are reserved for counterfeiters and fraudsters. The DHW Community Partner grantees and their efforts have been shared publicly and widely promoted. These are deserving, upstanding organizations and agencies that have been serving families and children throughout Idaho in compliance with the grant." 

The Attorney General's Office gave KTVB this comment:

“The attorney general has the authority to investigate these entities under Idaho Code Sections 48-1908, 48-1203 & 1204, and 48-611(11). We look forward to continuing our cooperative communications with some of the recipients, and we will zealously defend the powers the legislature has given us to ensure compliance with Idaho law.”

The complaint was filed in Ada County in Fourth District Court. The court has not yet decided whether to grant or deny any injunctions or restraining orders in this case. 

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